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A Beachside Home Transformed With Timeless, Lighthearted Design

by Mark Dylan


We often talk about clients coming on a journey with us during the design process, but that can go both ways, particularly when the process takes several years. Just as a client joins us in embracing new ideas for their house, we adapt our vision to meet their changing lifestyle. The design of this house evolved through time, as our client’s life shifted from that of a busy bachelor to a married man with a baby on the way.

Sanil was drawn to the quiet beachside location of his house, with its surrounding bushland and lofty ocean views. Designed by architect David Boyle and with a landscaped native garden by Pangkarra Garden Design, the building evokes a 1950s Australian coastal vernacular through elements like a raked ceiling of hoop-pine panels and expansive timber floors. When we were first engaged to furnish the house, our interior design was a response to the way the architecture sat in the landscape and maintained a connection from outdoors to indoors. Six years and a wedding later, Sanil and his wife, Karyn, sought our help to create a home that would address the needs of their growing family and set them up for the future.

Reviewing the design through a new lens saw some spaces barely change and others transform, but the one constant was the owners’ developing appreciation for handmade and well-crafted furniture and artworks.

With its ocean views and timber ceiling, the main living area upstairs was designed in neutral tones and natural, easy-weathering materials. It has a relaxed look that displays an elegance of line in pieces like a pair of iconic leather chairs. A travertine block along one wall began our own romance with that material, which continued throughout the house over the years. The stone’s soft, sandy appearance gives it an appealing earthiness that suits the mix of textures in this space.

The adjacent dining setting is a composition of strong, striking gestures. A solid timber table made from two planks of oak is surrounded by the graphic black lines of the dining chairs, the long-stemmed light and the charcoal and pencil artworks on the wall. Beside it, a woven timber cabinet by Caroline Casey and a paper sculpture commissioned from Anna-Wili Highfield are significant pieces that emerged from an ongoing discussion with Sanil about Australian design and art.

With a new baby sleeping downstairs, our attention turned to a second living area on this floor where the family was spending more time. While upstairs living was all about the view, this room looked out onto the garden and landscaped area. Its location and lower ceilings gave it a more inward-facing aspect and we wanted to create a cosier ambience, layering the space with the colours and patterns that both owners love. A vibrant vintage rug on the concrete floor went a long way towards achieving this, bringing richness and character to the room. So too does the warm milky shade we used to paint the walls and ceilings, which gives everything an incandescent glow.

We replaced a wall of simple timber joinery with a fireplace flanked by cabinets painted soft green beneath a top of rich green marble. The combination anchors the room, giving it a more robust feeling. On another wall, a Mitch Cairns artwork adds its scattering of green leaves to a lively mix of pieces that includes a vividly upholstered cane chair and oak side tables resembling wooden crates.

Upstairs, the couple’s passion for craft is reflected in the timberwork of the kitchen island that features vertically slatted timber doors, through which the horizontal drawers can be seen, creating an intricate interplay of layers and lines. At one end we created a breakfast bar with leather tiles, which are wonderfully tactile, surprisingly hardwearing and will age beautifully over time.

Colour and pattern form a serene space in the master bedroom, where a bedhead of blue paisley fabric pairs beautifully with the grey-green walls. The delicacy of an Akari paper light sculpture is offset by the textured finishes of the sisal floor and a travertine block that acts as a bedside table. Testament to its appeal for these owners, the room has hardly changed over the years, and the paisley is so pleasing we gave a nod to it in the warm tones of the bedhead in another bedroom downstairs.

We welcomed the chance to introduce more earthy travertine in the bathrooms, where the focus is on materiality and form, enhanced by a few joyful design follies. In the master ensuite, a wall-mounted travertine basin makes an attractive partner to a shelf topped in heavenly peach-coloured terrazzo, which also covers the floor and main vanity top. The hand of different designers can be seen in the unique lines of an Eileen Gray mirror and in the timberwork of a Carl Hansen & Søn cupboard and Artek screen.

Another wall-mounted travertine basin forms the centrepiece of the downstairs powder room, beside a cloud-shaped shelf of peachy terrazzo. The unusual combination of a custom mirror and rattan wall light ensures that the elements in this room will continue to charm for years. It is delightful proof that timeless design can be lighthearted as well as beautiful.

Time has seen all the spaces of this house touched in some way. The design has moved both house and owners into a new era and, with a second baby now on the scene, more elements may change and others will remain, but all will be part of that same rewarding journey.

Arent & Pyke by Juliette Arent, Sarah-Jane Pyke, published by Thames & Hudson Australia, AUD$80, available now



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